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Monday, 20 October
Mother Night (And Boy Is It A Mother)

Tomorrow I have rehearsal (of course), and it's a deadline rehearsal: it is the first night that we work "off-book." That is to say, we aren't allowed to be carrying scripts any more. It's always a big deal in any production, and everyone sweats it, and it's always a fucking catastrophe. There's really no way around it; it's kind of like the first day of school: everyone knows no real work is going to get done, and everyone is freaked out, and everyone feels like hell afterwards. Probably the worst part about "first night off book" is, unlike the first day of school, how boring it is for everyone; people sit around and glumly wait for their turn to look dead stupid on stage. Not exactly a spicy recipe.

See, there is etiquette to consider, and the strange ways in which this ritual has evolved. Like I said, actors are supposed to be more or less conversant with their actual lines, but in reality, this is never the case: it's too early in the process to have all your lines down, generally speaking, unless you're some kind of terrible savant, or perhaps have a gruesomely exacting work ethic, and in both cases, you will probably be immediately hated. It's almost expected that you're going to run into a big patch of bumbling fuckups, and people who show up their colleagues probably aren't going to be very popular. It's expected that even the cream of the crop are going to have to call "Line!" at least a few times, at bare minimum.

And even this calling "Line!" is fraught with bizarre ritual. See, it is one of the grossest breaches of acting protocol to actually help your fellow actor out, no matter how dire the situation when it comes to off-book rehearsals. It is a strange dance between actor and stage manager (who is, in the parlance, "on book"--that is, following your every word against the script, and noting, I kid you not, every single deviation you make) as to when the stage manager actually supplies a line. The Stage Manager will never give the actor a line until he or she asks for it. Period. The SM will sit dumbly for minutes on end while an actor stews onstage, groping for lines (or until the director goes fucking ape, and demands intervention); it is simply not cool at all to hoarsely whisper to your struggling stagemate, "Dude, it's 'Now is the winter of our malcontent.' " Your fellow actor will detest you for this sort of thing, and rightfully so. It's built in to the system.

So there's where we'll be tomorrow, I guarantee it. Someone (and there's a good chance it might be me) will be cruising along in a scene, and will then hit a brick wall. An illustrative example:

Actor One (A1): My fair Gerard! What sayest thou?

Actor Two (A2): [Dead silence. The seconds creak by ominously.]

[The SM says nothing.]

A2: FUCK!

[A1 and the SM continue to say nothing.]

A2: I know this . . . it's the chili dogs thing . . .

[Everybody continues to say nothing.]

A2: FUCK!

[Nothing.]

A2: I enjoy . . . no. I like your . . . no, I was right . . . I enjoy chili dogs! I enjoy? I like? FUCK!

[Silence.]

A2: I know this.

[Silence.]

A2: Something about chili dogs?

[Silence.]

Director: We need to move this along.

A2: God damn it. What is it? Chili dogs . . . what? I almost had it!

[Silence.]

A2: Jesus Christ. LINE!

Stage Manager: The line is, "Darling, will you marry me?"

A2: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CHILI DOGS?!

Stage Manager: That's a different scene.

A2: Why didn't you tell me that?!

A1: It was actually kind of funny watching you do that.

Interestingly, people still wonder why actors drink so much. Now imagine this sort of scenario stretched out over five hours, and I'm only exaggerating a little bit. It makes for long nights.

I think I'm in good shape, but then again, I've humiliated myself before at these kind of things, so one never knows. At the very least, I can sit there, resolutely not remembering my lines, thinking of chili dogs.



Note: Comments are closed on old entries.

Comments

Really do like what you (usuallly) write, but this, this is not a great eulogy for Grape Ape. I think he deserved better than this.

Comment number: 001695   Posted by: Anna on October 21, 2003 03:42 AM from IP: 212.136.78.25

Alas, poor Grape Ape. I knew him, Beagley. A fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath been borne on the back of the van a thousand times. And now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rims at
it. Here hung those lips that have said "Grape Ape Grape Ape" I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Your giant letterman sweater, and enormous baseball cap? Not one new episode now, to mock your own grinning? Nay, not a one. And after this, there is only silence.

Comment number: 001696   Posted by: oliverJ on October 21, 2003 05:41 AM from IP: 63.109.229.13

Having a poor personal work ethic, I am always terribly amused by method actors who call for "line" in character.

Comment number: 001697   Posted by: T. on October 21, 2003 06:40 AM from IP: 24.88.70.136

Sounds scary.

Comment number: 001699   Posted by: Miel on October 21, 2003 05:31 PM from IP: 68.160.135.102

I agree with T. Plus, even though I used to pride myself on my personal work ethic, and even though I used to be a stage manager, I am even more amused by stage managers who GIVE lines in character. Eep.

Comment number: 001700   Posted by: ombra on October 21, 2003 07:56 PM from IP: 68.35.235.24

Wait! Isn't it "winter of our DIScontent?"

Comment number: 001701   Posted by: Edgeling on October 22, 2003 03:59 AM from IP: 216.80.152.253

Wait! Isn't it "winter of our DIScontent?"

Any regular reader of IP should recognize that typographical errors and minor, localized strokes are part of Skot's modus operandi. Doubtless you will find many misspellings, split infinitives, and dangling participles in this essay, previous writings, and epistles to come. However, I shall take the time to give you due recognition for your m4d pr00fr34ding ski77z.

*gives edgeling one red pencil*

Comment number: 001703   Posted by: avo the curmudgeon on October 22, 2003 07:41 AM from IP: 24.75.116.130

Wait! Isn't it "winter of our DIScontent?"

It's actually "winter of our impotence."

Comment number: 001704   Posted by: Skot on October 22, 2003 07:49 AM from IP: 140.107.120.123

AVOOOOOO! You're such a curmudgeon.

Comment number: 001705   Posted by: claxy on October 22, 2003 08:15 AM from IP: 141.211.251.133

Winter would be a horrible time to be impotent.
Better...."Winter of our incontinent"
or worse...."Winter of our incontinence"

Comment number: 001707   Posted by: heather on October 22, 2003 10:34 AM from IP: 63.227.131.182

% I thought it was the "winter of our discotheque". %

Comment number: 001708   Posted by: TheBrad on October 22, 2003 12:11 PM from IP: 66.140.204.98

"Now is the Jonathon Winters of our discontent made uproariously funner by this piece of pork."

Comment number: 001709   Posted by: Joe on October 22, 2003 01:50 PM from IP: 165.247.25.91

How can there be dis/mal/un/lack of content where there are chili dogs?

Comment number: 001711   Posted by: Pesty on October 23, 2003 05:31 AM from IP: 66.160.108.162

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